Addie Collins was a 24-year-old production assistant for Today with a budding career in news broadcasting when she was lured into a “hostage-style” sexual relationship with disgraced anchor Matt Lauer.
It was 2000 when Collins, who now goes by her married name Zinone, first encountered Lauer. She was following her dreams and was ready to take the next step in her career when Lauer seduced her into a relationship that she told Variety was consensual but ruled by a power imbalance that made her feel like a victim.
Lauer's first message in June 2000 started the relationship that changed Zinone’s life forever:
hey. i hope you won’t drag me to personnel for saying this. but you look fantastic. i don’t know what you have done, or what is going on in your life…but it’s agreeing with you.
Zinone replied by thanking him and informing the news anchor of her new job – a local anchor on WDTV Channel 5 in her hometown in West Virginia, which she was expected to start not long after. She also told him that she’d love to get advice from him before she left. Silence followed, until a month later when Lauer messaged her again on July 12.
OK…NOW YOU’RE KILLING ME…YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! A BIT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE.
She remembers wearing a skirt, heels, and a top at the time.
Zinone didn’t respond, but Lauer did.
“Well silence is golden.”
“Okay, is someone screwing around with me?” Zinone questioned.
Lauer insisted that it was him and not somebody else under his log-in. The two set up to meet for lunch the next day so Lauer could give Zinone advice.
It was supposed to be strictly a professional meeting, Zinone claimed her intentions. She was there for advice, nothing more, but Lauer’s intentions became clear fairly quickly. He began flirting with her, guiding the conversation, manipulating her, she claims. As a 24-year-old production assistant, she didn’t know how to react and she feared embarrassing herself. She fell for it.
When their lunch came to an end, Lauer told Zinone to leave first, a fact that she says, in hindsight, should have been a red light that something wasn’t right. She was flattered by him, though, and upon returning to the office, she sent him a message, which he immediately responded to.
“meet me.” he said.
“meet you where?” she asked. “matt, think about this first…you have a wife.”
“dressing room where?”
Zinone met Lauer in his dressing room, studio 1A, where their sexual encounters began. He left soon after they had sex and Zinone claims it was the moment her “life had completely changed.”
Their relationship continued, but only in that studio room where what they were doing was kept a secret. Their relationship, and any communication that went with it, didn’t leave that studio. There were no instant messages, emails, phone calls, or talking, but Zinone continued to meet Lauer several more times over the course of the next few weeks. Zinone entered each encounter hoping that Lauer would give her the advice that he had promised.
Their relationship ended at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles that summer after the two met in a bathroom for a final sexual encounter. But now, years later, it still haunts Zinone. “What happened with Matt held me hostage," she said. "I was under his spell. It was all-consuming.”
Zinone would go on to quit her job as a local news anchor and enlist in the army, stating that she enlisted because she couldn’t deal with the fallout of her relationship with Lauer. She chose to come forward with her story now to confirm the allegations other women have made against Lauer.